For the past two weeks, deadly monsoon rains have deluged the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, wiping away vulnerable shanties and forcing thousands to relocate.
Since the heavy rains started on July 2 at least 58.5 centimeters (23 inches) have fallen. The camp, located in the Cox’s Bazar district, is home to more than 900,000 Rohingya who fled persecution in neighboring Myanmar.
The heavy rains are the latest events in a season of ecological torment that is bullying the camps this year. Over 200 landslides have occurred since April; several in the past few weeks. Nearly 5,000 hillside shacks were destroyed in July. An estimated 50,000 people have been affected or displaced. Rains and landslides killed two young boys in the last two weeks. Eight others have died since the spring.
The toll is aggravated by the camp’s flimsy and unsecured shelters. Bangladeshi government limits refugees to building “temporary” dwellings, meaning most people live in shanties constructed with tarpaulin, bamboo, corrugated metal and the like.
“Days of heavy rain and landslides have left homes teetering precariously on the brink of steep ravines. Roads have turned into rivers and streams run down the steep hillsides between people’s houses,” explains Elizabeth Hallinan, the Oxfam advocacy manager in Cox’s Bazar. Hallinan added that the repair of toilets and handpumps is being prioritized to help prevent the spread of disease.
Oxfam and other agencies are rushing to provide the Rohingya with necessary aid, especially those who are displaced or living in areas vulnerable to flooding. Refugees say shortages of food and water endemic in the camp.
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Kayla Ritter is a recent graduate of Michigan State University, where she studied International Relations and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. She is currently based in Manton, Michigan. Kayla enjoys running, writing, and traveling. Contact Kayla Ritter